Doing Your Own Research:

Writing Research Papers on the New Testament

[APPENDIX A From New Testament Story: An Introduction by David L. Barr (Fourth Edition, Wadsworth: 2009)]

Probably the chief value of a research paper in an introductory course is to help you learn your way around the appropriate sections of the library and the Internet, discovering the specialized resources available and how to use them. This section will provide a brief overview of those resources and suggestions on how to get started on research. An electronic version of this appendix is posted on my web site, where all the links listed below are active. (

Getting Started

The first task is to find a suitable topic for research—that is, (1) a topic you are interested in, (2) one on which resources are available, and (3) one that is manageable in the time available before the due date. The resources sections at the ends of the chapters list a few potential topics; other topics will surely occur to you as you read the New Testament writings.

Once you have chosen a topic, the next step is to get an overview of it so that you will have a perspective from which you can pursue your own inquiry. Perhaps the discussion in class or in this text has already provided you sufficient perspective, but do not neglect the dictionaries and encyclopedias that are available. These reference works will usually identify what the issues are and provide a basic beginning bibliography.

The most comprehensive dictionary available is the six-volume Anchor Bible Dictionary (Freedman, 1992). However, the older InterpreterÕs Dictionary of the Bible (Buttrick, 1962 and 1976) is still useful. One-volume dictionaries are less valuable, but three of the best are the HarperÕs Bible Dictionary (Achtemeier, 1996), Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Freedman et al., 2000), and the New Bible Dictionary (Wood, 1996). The newer edition of The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Bromiley, 1988) is also useful.

Consulting a one-volume commentary can be helpful in getting an overview of a particular biblical writing or a thumbnail sketch of a particular passage. Four quite different works, each excellent in its own way, are available:

Two reference sets in related areas are The Oxford Classical Dictionary (Hornblower and Spawforth 1996), which contains fine introductions to Greek and Roman antiquity; and Encyclopedia Judaica, 22 volumes, 2007; also available online.

Finding Resources

Your next task is to find the relevant scholarly literature on your subject. The small bibliographies in the dictionaries reference only the most important works, but each of these works will have its own bibliography of earlier works. The lists of topics at the end of each chapter in this book provide several suggestions, usually in the order they might be most useful. To find more recent work, you will need to use the scholarly indexes that are available in book form, on CD ROM, and on the Internet.

The basic journal index for all aspects of religion studies is Religion Index (also known as ATLA Religion Database). It is a comprehensive reference database, containing more than 1 million citations from over 1,400 international journal titles and 14,000 multiauthor works and book reviews related to religious studies from 1949 to the present. Available in book form, on CD-ROM, and on-line through subscription (possibly through your library), it is produced by the American Theological Library Association (information at

Two more-technical bibliographic guides also treat New Testament topics: the annual guide to the ancient world, LÕAnnŽe philologique, especially in section 1 (Histoire LittŽraire, and its subdivision LittŽrature judŽo‑chrŽtienne) and section 5 (Histoire, and its subdivision, Histoire religieuse et mythologie). It covers works in English, French, and German. More comprehensive, but not as widely available, is Elenchus of Biblia, a topical index to over 1,000 journals, published in Rome by the Biblical Institute Press.

Another strategy for finding recent work, especially for influential works, is to find who is citing these works in their footnotes. This can be done through the Arts and Humanities Citation Index. This work indexes articles and books according to the sources they cite. This too is available in electronic form; check with your librarian.

Another very valuable reference work is New Testament Abstracts, which provides short abstracts of articles from most of the important journals that deal with the New Testament. These abstracts can be very useful in deciding whether you need to get the article, should the article not be readily available in your library. This work also contains notices and abstracts of new books. The arrangement by biblical writing rather than by topic, makes it difficulty to use, though there are periodic indexes. There are three issues per year, with the third issue containing an index by scripture passage and author. It is now available on CD-ROM and online (back to 1985), though with a limited search engine.

One other very useful work is available in both print and electronic form, Religious and Theological Abstracts. It too has the major benefit of including short abstracts of the articles indexed. The on-line version allows you to do a limited demonstration search (

The Internet

A wealth of information is available on the Internet, but also an ample supply of biased and erroneous information. For general guidelines for evaluating information from the Internet, see

One way to find reliable information is to use the services of a New Testament scholar. The best such service is provided by Mark Goodacre at his site, As the name suggests, this is an index to other sites and resources, including a wealth of on-line articles and books. Also of great value is the site of Torrey Seland at Finally, the University of Pennsylvania maintains a rather full listing of sites for the study of Judaism and Christianity (

For information about the Greco-Roman world there are two very useful sites:

Diotima provides information for the study of women and gender in the ancient world (

The Perseus project attempts to make a wide range of resource material available on the Web, including texts, art works, and archaeological information (

Many general and Catholic resources are indexed at:

You can find many ancient writings on line, perhaps the best collection is: (Temporarily, we hope, off line) . A backup copy of the site is available.


You can find a broad selection of early Jewish writings at:



The general format for citing material on the World Wide Web is similar to that for print citations, and the general principle is the same: give the reader enough information to find the original. If you know the author, list the item by authorÕs name, last name first, followed by the full title of the item in quotation marks. If the item is part of a larger work, give the name of the larger work in italics, followed by any version or file number and the date of the documentÕs creation or last revision. Next list the protocol (for example, http://) and the full URL, followed by the date of access in parentheses. For example:

Sanders, E.P. ŅThe Question of Uniqueness in the Teaching of Jesus,Ó 1990. (September 28, 2007).

ŅAncient Olympic Events.Ó The Ancient Olympics. February 21, 1997. (June 19, 2001).

More elaborate instructions for citing both print and Internet publications can be found at these sites:


In addition to using your own library catalog, you can find the catalogs of most major research libraries now available on-line. These catalogs are very useful for discovering all that has been published on a specific topic; you can virtually browse the shelves by searching for a call number of a book on your topic. See the comprehensive listing at:  (Choose a state, then scroll down to academic libraries.)

There are a number of on-line discussion groups devoted to New Testament topics; most have archives of past discussion. You can find their addresses, rules for subscribing, and how to search their archives at:

Among the more active and interesting groups are:

Synoptic-L is an email conference for the discussion of the Synoptic Gospels

Corpus Paulinum is a moderated list for discussion of Paul.

CrossTalk (XTalk) focuses its discussion on the historical Jesus and early Christian origins

Ioudaios-L is a moderated group for the discussion of Judaism in the Greco-Roman era.

GThomas E-group is devoted to the scholarly discussion of the Gospel of Thomas.

Blogs on biblical and related topics are multiplying (and disappearing); two bloggers attempt to keep an up-to-date list:

The Biblical Journals

The more important journals for the study of the New Testament include these:

The Journal of Biblical Literature is the professional journal of the Society of Biblical Literature and covers all aspects of biblical study. It is available both in print and online ; see at [JBL]

New Testament Studies is the professional journal of the Studiorium Novi Testamentum Societas, based in England. [NTS]

The Catholic Biblical Quarterly is the professional journal of the Catholic Biblical Association. [CBQ]

Interpretation is published by Union Theological Seminary in Virginia and deals with all aspects of biblical literature. Issues often focus on a specific problem or kind of literature.

Novum Testamentum is a New Testament journal published by E. J. Brill, Leiden. [NovT]

Semeia was an experimental journal devoted to newer methods of study, especially literary and structuralist studies of biblical literature. Issues were devoted to specific themes or methods. It is now a book series, but the first 91 issues are available, some online at:


Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus is published by Sage publications and available electronically at; check with your library for access.

Biblical Interpretation: A Journal of Contemporary Approaches is devoted to newer methods of study and published by Brill. It is available in both hardcopy and electronically (

Biblical Theology Bulletin is probably the best source today for articles on the social analysis of biblical writings and culture, many from an anthropological approach. [BTB]

Harvard Theological Review, despite its name, covers all aspects of the study of religion, including historical, archaeological, and literary approaches. [HTR]

American Academy of Religion Journal is the professional journal in general religion studies. [JAAR]

For an extensive list of relevant journals, see

In addition, journals focusing on the study of Judaism and on classical antiquity often cover topics important for the study of the New Testament. Some of the more important ones are listed below.

Classical Antiquity

American Philological Association, Transactions and Proceedings, is a major journal for the study of classical Greece and Rome. [TAPA]

Aufstieg und Niedergang der Ršmischen Welt is published in Germany but contains many English articles. It specializes in major treatments of specific themes. [ANRW]

Other journals include Antiquity; Classical Journal; Classical Quarterly; Classical World; Gnomon; Greece and Rome; Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies; Hermes; Isis; Journal of Roman Studies; and Yale Classical Studies.


The Hebrew Union Annual, published by the Hebrew Union College, deals with all aspects of the study of Judaism.

The Jewish Quarterly Review; Journal for the Study of Judaism; Judaism: A Quarterly; and Journal of Jewish Studies are all useful references.

Jewish Literature

The sources for studying Rabbinic Judaism are vast, complex, and obscure. The most accessible English introduction is Neusner, 1995. Strack and Stemberger, 1996, is more advanced. Also see Safrai, 1987.

The earliest literature is the Mishnah, published from earlier oral tradition about 200 ce. It consists of 63 tractates, each on a separate topic. One of the most accessible is Aboth (The Fathers). The standard English version of the Mishnah is that of Danby, 1933; there is a new translation by Neusner, 1988.

The most important literature is the Talmud, which exists in two versions: the Jerusalem Talmud (published around 400 ce) and the Babylonian Talmud (published around 600 ce; this is the more authoritative and can be referred to simply as the Talmud). The Talmud is largely a vast commentary on the Mishnah, each discussion starting with a quotation from the Mishnah, then adding many comments and discussion by various rabbis. The standard English translation is published in 36 volumes (Epstein, 1935; see also Neusner, 1982–1993).

Other important literature includes the Tosefta (meaning additions); it contains further thoughts on the topics addressed in the Mishnah. The Midrashim (meaning investigations) are a series of commentaries on scripture; there are many such commentaries from various periods of Jewish history. Finally, there are the Targumim, a series of Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Scripture.

One difficulty in citations is that many of the tractates, and even the whole works, can be called by different names. For example the tractate on The Fathers can be cited as Avoth, Avot, Aboth, Pirke Aboth, or Mishnah Aboth. The Mishnah is also spelled Mishna; the Jerusalem Talmud is also called the Palestinian Talmud, the Talmud of the Land of Israel, or simply Yerushalmi; the Babylonian Talmud is also called Bavli. Citations from the Mishnah will often just use the name of the tractate (for example, Aboth), but may be cited as Mishnah Aboth or M. Aboth. Talmudic citations will included the name of the tractate and some indicator of which Talmud it is from, often just with an initial: TB or B for the Babylonian Talmud; Y for the Jerusalem Talmud.

General Guides

For academic journals, see Dawsey, 1988.

Reviews of important monographs may be located by using the Index to Book Reviews in Religion and the Book Review Index. Full reviews of most recent scholarly books can be found in the Review of Biblical Literature (RBL), published by the Society of Biblical Literature. A print edition is available annually by subscription; the on-line version can be accessed free at

Bibliographic guides are also available. Among the best are J. A. Fitzmyer, 1990b; Danker, 1993; and France, 1979. Each is annotated. Also useful is the minimally annotated listing of Scholer, 1973. Stuart, 1990, evaluates commentaries from a conservative perspective. For a guide to the classical world, see Bagnall, 1980. On Judaism, see Cutter and Oppenheim, 1982.

Many specialized bibliographies are also available (see the following bibliography for complete details):

New Testament—Harrington, 1985b; Hurd, 1966; Langevin, 1985; Wagner, 1987 (see also Minor, 1992; Kiehl, 1988)

Bible as Literature—Gottcent, 1979; Minor, 1992; Powell and others, 1992

Rhetoric and the Bible—Watson and Hauser 1994

Jesus and the Gospels—Aune, 1980a; den Heyer, 1997; Evans, 1996; Garland, 1990; Hultgren, 1988; Theissen, 1998; Kissinger, 1985; Longstaff and Thomas, 1988; McKnight and Williams, 2000; White, 1988

Mark—Brooks, 1978; H. M. Humphrey, 1981; Kee, 1978; Matera, 1987b

Matthew—Ziesler, 1985; Harrington, 1975

Luke-Acts—Mattill, 1966; Mills, 1986; Segbroeck, 1989

John—Belle, 1988; Bogart, 1978; Koester, 1991

Sermon on the Mount and parables—Kissinger, 1975 and 1979

Paul—Nanos, 2000; Borchert, 1985; Metzger, 1960

1 Peter—Casurella, 1996

Apocalypse—Muse, 1996

Roman religion—Beard, North, and Price, 1998

Judaism—Neusner, 1972b; Mor and Rappaport, 1982; Bourquin, 1990; Kraft and Nickelsburg, 1985

Dead Sea scrolls—Flint and VanderKam, 1998–1999; Fitzmyer, 1990a; Murphy-OÕConnor and Charlesworth, 1990

Josephus—Feldman, 1986

Philo—Runia, 2000; Hilgert, 1977

Pseudepigrapha—Charlesworth, 1981 and 1987

Social Science approaches—Horrell, 1999

Patronage—Elliott, 1987

Kinship—Hanson, 1994

Women—Pomeroy, 1991a

Prostitution—Ford, 1993

Slavery—Osiek, 1992a

City—Rohrbaugh, 1991

Ephesus—Oster, 1987